The common cold accounts for more doctor visits than any other health condition, and chances are that you’ve probably had one yourself, maybe even recently. Considering that more than 200 different viruses can cause a cold, it’s no surprise that the condition is so prevalent. The most common virus that causes colds is the rhinovirus.
The common cold is rarely a serious medical condition. It’s usually characterized by a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, headache, body aches and watery eyes. More often than not, it subsides within a few days or a week, although some children, elderly people and those in poor health might find that their colds last a bit longer.
It’s important to note, however, that some symptoms that at first appear to be related to a common cold may actually be related to a more serious condition. That’s why you should see a doctor if you have a fever above 100.4 degrees F., if the cold symptoms last longer than 10 days, if over-the-counter medicines provide no relief or if you begin to experience any other unusual or alarming symptoms.
Treating the Common Cold
Because a cold is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics will do little to treat the condition. Rather, most colds just need to be waited out. You can speed your recovery by resting, drinking plenty of water and staying warm. It’s also advisable to try some over-the-counter medications to aid the specific cold symptoms that are bothering you.
A cold is almost always passed from person to person, so the best approach to preventing that is to avoid contact with others who may have a cold. Frequent hand washing also is helpful, and it’s a good practice to avoid touching your nose and eyes so that you don’t spread a cold virus that you may have picked up.
SOURCES: American Lung Association; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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